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> Like a Prayer: The Album ● 30 Years
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Liam.k.
post Mar 20 2019, 10:38 AM
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It's 30 years tomorrow since the release of Madonna's fourth album, Like a Prayer. The album marked a significant shift in Madonna's career both critically and creatively; the moment she transformed from pop star to artist. This would be her most ambitious and personal body of work to date, dealing with experiences past and present such as the death of her mother, her troubles with her husband and her complex relationship with her father, which she presented with great honesty and sincerity. It's musically progressive, incorporating elements of gospel, funk and soul into current pop sounds and it broadened the process of recording; the use of live instrumentation and unpolished vocals add different dynamics and heighten the emotion of the songs. All the while, the album remains as accessible as her past works. The underlying themes explored can transcend to listeners all over the world and Madonna's ear for well-rounded, catchy pop songs is still central to her craft.

Madonna's determination to expand her vision and push her creativity was duly rewarded, with Like a Prayer peaking at #1 in the vast majority of its charting territories and shifting 15 million copies. It spawned six singles, including the powerhouses of the title track and 'Express Yourself', and continues to be cited as one of the most influential, ground-breaking and essential albums of all time. As we reach its 30 year anniversary, let us confess our thoughts and memories.

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Spiceboy
post Mar 20 2019, 11:35 AM
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I adore this album easily my favourite Madonna album. Although 15million is obviously incredible I've always been slightly surprised it hasn't outsold Like a Virgin and True Blue as it is vastly superior and they both sold over 20million. I wonder if the religious theme did in fact turn off quite a few of her Christian fans?
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pippa
post Mar 20 2019, 03:19 PM
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It remains her best album and i too am surprised it didn't beat the sales of Like a Virgin and True Blue.
I believe the religious theme may have lost her some sales, back then, Religion had far greater power than it does now.
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vibe
post Mar 20 2019, 05:40 PM
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The religious theme has nothing to do with the sales . 1989 was a low sales climate compared to when LAV and True Blue were released. Madonnaís fans started as all young girls . As Madonna got older I assume these fans moved on and then the gays came smile.gif

I really want Till Death Do Us Part to be performed on a tour.
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Liam.k.
post Mar 21 2019, 11:56 PM
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I think this album joins Ray of Light and Confessions to complete my Holy Trinity of Madonna albums. There's definitely the sense that Madonna has pushed herself creatively, yet it all comes across as authentic and from a place of truth. She bares her soul and cuts no corners in expressing her emotion, no matter how personal or tough the issues at hand may be. She works to her vocal strengths too and I like how a lot of the vocals were from one take or were left unpolished as that really gives extra weight to the lyrics.

'Til Death Do Us Part' has to be one of her best constructed songs. A great example of how she can present hard-hitting topics in the guise of upbeat, catchy pop. The manic melody perfectly captures Madonna's anxiety as she explores the breakdown of her marriage. "You're not in love with someone else / You don't even love yourself / Still I wish you'd ask me not to go" is my favourite lyric and sums up the conflict Madonna faces. The three ballads are really striking and are great examples of Madonna's passionate, heartfelt vocals. Credit to Pat Leonard too who delivers beautiful piano performances. 'Like a Prayer' and 'Express Yourself' are giants that continue to influence artists to this date; huge production, huge vocals, huge messages, huge fun.

There's only one song I struggle with here which is 'Love Song'. I can appreciate the sort of vibe they were going for and I do find it interesting for the first minute or so, but then it just plods along and doesn't go anywhere. I can't say it's a bad song, I just don't think it works as well as they hoped. I read that Madonna and Prince had a few writing sessions together but they didn't seem to connect or be able to finish anything, which makes sense going off 'Love Song'. I do quite like 'Act of Contrition' though - it's silly and funny, helping to lift the album back up after dealing with some heavy content throughout.
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Spiceboy
post Mar 22 2019, 10:01 PM
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QUOTE(liamk97 @ Mar 21 2019, 11:56 PM) *
I think this album joins Ray of Light and Confessions to complete my Holy Trinity of Madonna albums.


That's my holy trinity of Madonna albums too wub.gif Although True Blue has a special place in my heart aswell, it was the first Madonna album I got wub.gif wub.gif wub.gif
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Liam.k.
post Mar 22 2019, 10:11 PM
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QUOTE(Spiceboy @ Mar 22 2019, 10:01 PM) *
That's my holy trinity of Madonna albums too wub.gif Although True Blue has a special place in my heart aswell, it was the first Madonna album I got wub.gif wub.gif wub.gif

They're the 'obvious' choice but they are really special albums. wub.gif Hard to decide what comes after; I've got several albums in the running. Think it could be between Music and Bedtime Stories for 4th, both of which seem to get overlooked.
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Liam.k.
post Mar 23 2019, 02:03 PM
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Outtakes

Angels With Dirty Faces - Written by Madonna and Patrick Leonard. First mentioned by Bruce Gaitsch in a 2006 interview with Peter Magennis: "I have a tape somewhere of some songs I had to learn parts from and none of these songs are on it. But there is a song called Angels with Dirty Faces on it that is killer". In July 2017, Patrick Leonard shared a 20-second clip on Instagram (here) and spoke this of the song:

"Angels"...is a song called "Angels With Dirty Faces" that M and I wrote for the album and ultimately must have decided wasn't good enough. Having said that, it's a finished song with her vocal that no one has ever heard and it's pretty darn good.

By Alien Means - Written by Prince, supposedly sent to Madonna but unknown whether she recorded a demo.

Bruce Baron writes:
This is actually an unreleased Prince (The Artist) tune supposedly sent to Madonna for recording consideration. I do not recall the exact source of this rumour, but it has been around for years, and was supposedly inspired by the 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour. It has never been established that Madonna actually recorded it with Prince or on her own. The Prince collectors usually have lots of bootleg unreleased tracks, but this one had never surfaced in the collectors market. Many are the demos he had sent to other female vocalists which he did quite often. Therefore I decided to request a listen at the copyright office to check it out. If this demo had been sent to me for consideration, it would be like the same feeling as receiving a totally "WRONG" piece of clothing as a birthday gift from a relative. "Thanks, it's - neat". The song appears to be about asking young people not to commit suicide: "Explore the interplanetary space between your mind. Don't go out by alien means". The instrumentation is a wild blend of guitars and percussion. Not much of a melody, but Prince in full form. His vocals are just as insane with multi-layered falsettos and voices. The date of creation on the registration is actually 1988, so this could not have been inspired by the 1990 BAT. It could be possible that it originates circa the Prince/Madonna duet "Love Song" and was then sent to her later? How much truth there is to this story we may never know, but this song did not make me think of Madonna when I heard it.

First There's a Kiss - Written and produced by Stephen Bray, existence confirmed himself. The song refers to safe sex and the friends Madonna had lost to AIDS.

Just A Dream - Written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard. Madonna considered the song "too rock" for her so it was given to her backing vocalist Donna De Lory for her debut album. Madonna's appears on backing vocals. Donna's version can be heard here.

Love Attack - Written and produced by Stephen Bray, existence confirmed himself. Rejected for not fitting the sound of the album.

Possessive Love - Written by Patrick Leonard, Madonna and Jai Winding. Madonna's demo was given to Marilyn Martin and included on her 1988 album This is Serious. Marilyn's version can be heard here.

Supernatural - Written by Madonna and Stephen Bray during the True Blue sessions but completed and recorded for Like a Prayer. Released as the B-side to 'Cherish'.

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Liam.k.
post Mar 23 2019, 02:04 PM
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From Patrick Leonard's instagram:


QUOTE
Thought I'd better break down the cassette before somebody losses their mind. They're first day versions. So the day we wrote it. They have a lead vocal and some backgrounds. We worked from these versions and they became the records. The titles you recognize are what they say they are. Not produced. Without live players and strings and choirs etc. "Angels" is a song called Angels with dirty faces. It's complete. And was never released. Good too. LIttle Girl is Promise to Try. Piano vocal like the record but not that version. Out of Time is Till Death do us Part. Boss's Nova is a Latin feel idea that never got there. No vocal. Just an idea. 20's jazz, the same, as is Mid Tempo. Sparks that made no fire. It happens. Side two of the tape is blank so #11, 12 and dance don't exist. I can NOT release or put up snippets. I'd be drawn and quartered. Maybe I'll try and organize some kind of private listening. It would have to be in space so let's hit up Elon Musk. Wish I could release it all because I know how happy it would make you all. But, I can not. Respectfully. PL
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Liam.k.
post Mar 23 2019, 02:26 PM
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I always find it interesting reading about the creative process of an album, learning about what worked and what didn't. It seems like none of the outtakes were unjustly missed off the album as it seems they either didn't fit the vision of the album or there were already similar songs on the album that did the trick ('First There's a Kiss' seems similar to 'Spanish Eyes' and 'Just a Dream' is like 'Cherish', very True Blue era). 'Just a Dream' is really catchy though and I can picture Madonna singing it; wouldn't have said it was 'too rock' either. I really like 'Supernatural' too.

Quite surprising that none of the outtakes seemed to have leaked. They're obviously out there if Patrick Leonard says he has access to them still.
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HausofGhibli
post Mar 24 2019, 09:50 PM
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I love this album. It's not in my top 3 from her (Confessions, RoL, True Blue (I think)) but it's certainly high up. The title track is obviously massive but even away from that there are so many moments on it that just feel me with every emotion under the sun. Special shoutout to 'Til Death Do Us Part' and 'Keep It Together'.
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HausofGhibli
post Mar 24 2019, 09:50 PM
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ALSO special mention to the tender moments on it: Oh Father and Promise to Try are two of her best ballads. Stunning, heartfelt, beautiful moments that never fail to stop me in my tracks and move me wub.gif
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vibe
post Mar 25 2019, 07:43 AM
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On my I tunes then have combined both albums , not happy lol
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HausofGhibli
post Mar 25 2019, 07:53 AM
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QUOTE(vibe @ Mar 25 2019, 07:43 AM) *
On my I tunes then have combined both albums , not happy lol

You'll have to tag one as 'Like A Prayer (30th Anniversary)' then it should separate them.
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Nina West
post Mar 25 2019, 08:15 PM
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An amazing album and definitely stands as one of or if not the BEST of Madonna's fabulous career. This is a great example of maturity and progressing further as an artist with a collection of fully realized collection of songs. I was too young to remember this being released, but knew some the fantastic singles (Like A Prayer, Express Yourself & Cherish). But when I was old enough I dived in head first and loved every minute of it and the critical acclaim this received was richly deserved.

The title track and lead single 'Like A Prayer', still stands as my favourite Madonna track, Itís an anthem of a song and every time I hear the opening guitars and then the gospel choir I still get goose-bumps, and talk about an epic opening to an album with such a heavy thud and just love the gospel choir that really lifts the whole thing to another level of brilliance, and that music video is just..WOW, so vivid and brings everything to maximum impact, but the song on its own works just as well and even to this day Madonna puts a huge amount of effort into making this one of the ultimate performances of every live tour.

'Express Yourself' - Another huge album moment and always preferred this version to the one that got released, its brassy, funky and so in your face. A good old-fashioned pop song promoting girl power long before girl power was even being promoted. A true iconic classic moment in her discography.

Love Song - A bit of a comedown after the explosive first 2 tracks and given the magnitude of combining Madonna & Prince - this should have been amazing, but comes off a bit tame and very slight, nothing quite connects and very lacking. Definitely the worst track on the album.

'Till Death Do Us Part' - Thankfully the pace picks up with this great little explosive number. the skittering guitar or keyboard part creates a frazzled feel that contrasts nicely with Madonnaís assured vocals. A standout and WHY wasn't this a single, surely would have been another smash hit.

'Promise To Try' - I really enjoy this song despite the sad message, a very complex piano ballad that not only tugs at the heartstrings, it offers advice on how to cope with such a tragic loss as well as asking for forgiveness. Its a nice song to play when you want to get lost in the music and your own thoughts.

'Cherish' - A welcome change and refreshing change of pace after the heavy themes of the previous tracks, this is fun and breezy Madonna pop at its finest, just a simple upbeat pop song about love and yes this is one of my fave Madonna singles, and a perfect track pick in my opinion that reminds us that she's still all about having fun as well as dealing with serious issues.

Dear Jessie - Again showing another side to the album, a track that's composed more like a children's lullaby than an actual pop song, but it does work in its own way and you do get captured into the fantasy of pink elephants and lemonade, a fun playful pop psychedelic number that's certainly different and shows how multi layered Madonna really is. I dunno if I would call this a single choice however with tracks like (Till Death Do Us Part & Promise To Try) on the album.

Oh Father - A companion of sorts to 'PTT', a song about her strained relationship with he father, and a really good ballad where Madonna gets to show off her fantastic vocals and it does resonate with you and the beautiful music video captures the song perfectly. Glad we finally got this released in the UK eventually years later. A good song and powerful moment on this fantastic album.

Keep It Together - A good mid-tempo synth track with a really important and powerful message, all of which is mixed into a solid funky groove. This does kinda get lost amongst some of the albums more finer moments and if it didn't get a single release, I don't think many would remember this at all, but on the whole it is a pretty solid number.

Spanish Eyes - A Latin flavoured guitar ballad that confronts some serious issues and kinda ahead of its time in a way and this shows how far Madonna has come since the early days of her first album.

Act of Contrition - Madonna decided to close the album in such a weird yet stylish way with some sort of demo megamix, the rock music running throughout is pretty great and after the previous 10 tracks dealt with some serious issues, Madonna decides to let loose and take a break of sorts, certainly different and dunno how I feel about this track, even to this day, quite a strange one, but its Madonna after all, so who care..

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jlj
post Mar 25 2019, 08:29 PM
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QUOTE(Spiceboy @ Mar 22 2019, 10:01 PM) *
That's my holy trinity of Madonna albums too wub.gif Although True Blue has a special place in my heart aswell, it was the first Madonna album I got wub.gif wub.gif wub.gif


I third this as well!

I wish I was actually born when Like A Prayer was released.

But itís a fantastic body of work and her first ďalbumĒ for me in the sense of the whole collection being a body of work. Her first three albums were kinda like all singles too me but from Like A Prayer to Confessions everything seemed like a real album.

Is the title track among Madonnaís most streamed? I notice itís been creeping up on her biggest sellers list. Itís my all time favourite Madonna song.
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vibe
post Mar 25 2019, 09:13 PM
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Completely agree why wasnít Til Death Do Us Part a single ? I would have preferred this instead of Keep It TOgether.
The video would have been amazing .

Maybe they went with KIT cos she sang it on BA tour.
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Liam.k.
post Apr 4 2019, 10:22 AM
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QUOTE(SamJudd @ Mar 25 2019, 09:15 PM) *
An amazing album and definitely stands as one of or if not the BEST of Madonna's fabulous career. This is a great example of maturity and progressing further as an artist with a collection of fully realized collection of songs. I was too young to remember this being released, but knew some the fantastic singles (Like A Prayer, Express Yourself & Cherish). But when I was old enough I dived in head first and loved every minute of it and the critical acclaim this received was richly deserved.

...

Great review! Pretty much agree with everything you've put. When you look at the tracks one by one, you can see how varied they are yet they're all carefully placed as to ensure they compliment each other and make the album work as a collection. For instance, 'Promise to Try' into 'Cherish' might seem jarring on paper but it just works and stops the album from leaning too far into one direction.
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